Change is difficult enough. Trying to make a new good habit or break and hold bad habit. It just throws your whole day, week, or even months for a loop until that change becomes your new normal. And then you add in the people around you. In theory, if you’re making a personal change it should have no bearing on other people. It’s not like you’re making them change too. But it’s never quite that simple is it? And there’s always a lot of fear that comes with change because of the potential for icky, messy, roadblocks that affect your relationships.
Why our fears are (mostly) rational…
We’ve all tried to change something about our lives in the past or at least been around someone who’s working on a personal change of some sort. If we’ve paid attention to the behavior patterns of the people in our lives, we can usually make a pretty educated guess regarding how people will react of we try to make a change. If we were to try to lose weight, for example, our eating habits would change. Here are just a few examples of reactions we might be able to predict:
- Our spouse or family might not be too thrilled if they were “forced” to eat the same food we’ve decided to eat
- That one friend who always has treats at their desk might get “offended” that you’ve stopped eating the goodies they bring in
- Another friend with healthy habits might become a new ally & source of support
- We might feel like we don’t fit in with some of the groups we hang out with because we’re saying “no” more often
It’s fairly common for people to both consciously & unconsciously push back on change. By making different decisions, you’re forcing someone to recognize that they have a decision point too. And they might “shoot the messenger” by making you feel bad about the change you’re trying to make rather than admit that they should consider making a change as well.
How to find & create safety in times of change
First, doing an inventory of our closest friends and family to determine our best guess as to how they’ll react will help us not walk into these situations blindly. It will also help identify the people we think will most likely support us as well as those least likely to support us. Then, it’s a matter of creating a “game plan” using the general approaches so we can minimize or maximize the impact they’ll have on our ability to change.
- Requesting support: sometimes it’s as simple as requesting people to support us. That support might be as simple as not putting pressure on us to continue with old habits. Or, we might even request that they change with us (such as spending habits).
- Planning our responses in advance: we may need to plan ahead when we know we’re going to spend time with certain people because they represent a greater temptation to fall back into old habits. It could be as simple as just having a response planned out for when that pressure to revert back is applied.
- Avoidance: We might need to avoid some of our bigger influencers for awhile until we are confident enough in our change that we can be successful.
- Finding new allies: We may want to identify some acquaintances who we can lean on that have been through the same type of change (or challenge) that we’re currently going through
I’ve found that this takes observation, personal awareness, realistic honesty, and practice. And it’s definitely something that needs to be practiced. People and relationships can be messy if we get careless and assume our lives don’t affect the people around us. I’ve personally found that just by simply being open & honest about the changes I’m trying to make in my life has a huge impact. A great example is simply telling someone “I’m trying to be more aware & more intentional about my eating habits” doesn’t allow for the proverbial elephant in the room.
What are some times you’ve had fear about a personal change you’ve tried to make? How did you find & create safety to help you be more successful? Please comment below. I love hearing about & learning from your experiences.
Wishing you an All+SUM LIFE,